Fascia, or myofascia, is connective tissue that envelops the body below the skin. There are different levels and layers to the fascia and differentiations to be made between types, but the entire body–organs, nerves muscles, bones, arteries and veins–are encased in fascia. Ligaments and tendons are also connective tissue, essentially fascia with different names as the ligaments connect bones to bones and tendons connect muscles to bones. What we refer to as fascia wraps the body in a varied and endless pattern.
A few years ago when I was first learning about this stuff I bought a dissection DVD on the subcutaneous fascia. I didn’t know much at the time and didn’t pay any attention to the word subcutaneous in the title. I paid my forty bucks, excitedly put the disc in the player and watched someone flay the skin off of a body for forty minutes and then it ended. I was in shock. What just happened? That cant be it! I paid forty bucks to watch him take the skin off a body under horrible green flourescent light?
That’s how I learned that subcutaneous means under the skin and is only the first layer of fascia which was all that that DVD covered. Oh well, lesson learned.
The picture at the top of the post is a good illustration of how our muscles are embedded within the fascia. The picture shows how each individual fiber of a muscle is wrapped in fascia, as well as the muscles themselves and the groups they are a part of, etc, etc. Rosemary feitus, an original student of Ida Rolf, wrote a book about fascia appropriately titled The Endless Web. Ida Rolf’s visionary leap was to see this substance that was known within the body but fairly disregarded actually has a tensile quality that could help or hinder the structure as a whole.
In a healthy balanced body our fascia is soft, supple and pliable. We can look to the pectoral muscles for an example of how fascia can impact negatively on the body. Pectoralis major and minor are muscles of the upper chest that are designed to glide over each other when they do their thing which is to move in opposite directions. The pectoralis minor draws the shoulder blade toward the front of the chest while pectoralis major moves the arm bone away from the chest. If the fascia surrounding these muscles becomes less supple which it often does due to postural imbalances, these muscles will become more bound together and fail to glide over one another or even separate. Another example is this video I made about my experience with Rolfing and my turned out right foot.
There isn’t much bodywork I havent tried or read about but Rolfing sits very high on my list of modalities that I recommend to clients (I named my daughter Ida—enough said!). Many people dont realize how difficult it can be for a habitually tight body to open. While perseverance will further and time invested pays dividends, there are practices that can help you speed the process along the way.
Getting rolfed about a decade ago changed my life in a beautiful way and I feel that tight or constricted fascia prevents many people from going deeper into the journey of building a healthier body.